DreamWorks Banks on HP for 3D Movie Making

On the eve of releasing its first fully 3D film, animation studio DreamWorks has outlined the technology requirements behind some of its biggest movie successes. DreamWorks played host to a group of press visiting Los Angeles for an HP workstations event. Speaking at its 3D studios ahead of the US release of Monsters vs. Aliens today, DreamWorks chief technology officer Ed Leonard explained that the current release schedule of two films a year depends on having "the latest and greatest technology".

Derek Chan, head of digital operations for DreamWorks Animation, offered further insight into the demands the studio puts on its technology. Creating an animated film requires the use of hundreds of workstations and artists; at present, DreamWorks is using HP's XW8600 workstations running Intel Xeon quad-core processors. Over 9,000 cores and more than 45 million render hours were required for the development of Monsters vs. Aliens, Chan said; in the datacentre, each rack has over 500 cores, and consumes over 18Kw per rack space.

Storage is also a challenge. Chan revealed that making the InTru 3D film took up 100TB of data, while a scene involving the destruction of the mothership required 6TB alone. "That's three times the amount of storage we had when we started the studio," Leonard added.

Despite the huge advances in technology that have allowed DreamWorks to produce a 90-minute fully 3D film, which is extremely impressive to watch, one feature has yet to evolve: 3D glasses. Although these have moved on from the last-generation design of a piece of cardboard with one red lens and one blue lens into a more snazzy looking black plastic model, movie goers are still required to sit through the film wearing a one-size-fits-all pair of glasses.

However, Leonard explained that DreamWorks is investigating new ideas for the glasses, including working with a sunglasses manufacturer so that people can wear their own sunglasses to view 3D films.

By Madeline Bennett, Personal Computer World